Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
(French, 1864 - 1901)
La Troupe de Madamoiselle Eglantine
Lithograph in colours
24 x 28.3/8 in. (61 x 72 cm.) poster dimensions
32.1/2 x 39.1/4 in. (82 x 99.7 cm.) including frame
Date of creation: 1896
Notes: Wittrock #P21
Condition: In good condition, original folds can be seen on close inspection. The poster has been stabilised on card. Around the right hand figure there is a little bubbling on the paper. Colours are good though the poster has darkened due to expected signs of age.
Toulouse-Lautrec is among the best-known painters of the Post-Impressionist period, with Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin. He was also a vocal supporter and friend of Oscar Wilde.
He was born to aristocratic parents, descendants of the Counts of Toulouse and the Viscounts of Lautrec. If he had outlived his father, Henri would have succeeded to the family title of Comte. His parents were first cousins (his grandmothers were sisters), and he suffered from congenital health conditions sometimes attributed to inbreeding. At age 13/14 he fractured both femurs (possibly due to a genetic disorder) and his legs ceased to grow. He developed an adult-sized torso, while retaining his child-sized legs. Additionally, he is reported to have had hypertrophied genitals.
Toulouse-Lautrec immersed himself in art. His early mentor Princeteau persuaded his parents to send him to Paris and study under the acclaimed portrait painter Léon Bonnat and then Fernand Cormon. He befriended Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh and during this period, Toulouse-Lautrec had his first encounter with a prostitute rumoured to be Marie Charlet.
He was drawn to Montmartre for its bohemian lifestyle and the haunt of artists, writers, and philosophers, and rarely left over the next 20 years. When the Moulin Rouge cabaret opened, Toulouse-Lautrec was commissioned to produce a series of posters. Other artists looked down on the work, but he ignored them.
Toulouse-Lautrec was mocked for his short stature and physical appearance, which led him to drown his sorrows in alcohol (most famously Absinthe), and he mixed with prostitutes. By February 1899, his physical and mental health began to decline rapidly due to alcoholism and syphilis, which he reportedly contracted from Rosa La Rouge, a prostitute who was the subject of several of his paintings. He died on 9 September 1901.